Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living Frugally in New York City

A short story on Living Frugally in New York City

The year was 2001. A twenty-some young man stepped out of the airplane at Newark International Airport. His black waxy hair was neatly styled to look preem and proper. Together with his new suit and black-kiwi business shoes, he was ready to step out to greet the street-smart businessmen and financial-savvy stockbrokers at one of the world's busiest financial hub - New York City.

Tim was sent on a 2-month work assignment to the city. This was one of the biggest breakthrough in his 5-year career with the company. Succeeding in this assignment would herald a bright and promising future for more years to come. Tim was determined to prove his mettle. He was also grateful to his supportive wife who shouldered the new responsibilities to take care of their newborn at home.

As he stepped out of the airport, the late-autumn chill air greeted Tim. His brown eyes were then treated the granduer sight of the gold, red and rust amongst the trees from afar. "Welcome to New York City." Tim mumbled to himself as he gripped tight the air ticket on his hand.

Tim hailed the yellow taxi to the financial district of the city. His eyes widened like a little boy when he saw suspending traffic lights. His heart would skip a beat whenever the taxi driver tried to overtake another car and he could feel a lump in his throat whenever another vehicle steered dangerously into the lane. Notwithstanding, he arrived to his hotel safe and sound except for his dishevelled hair.

As it was too earlier to check into the hotel room, Tim parked his belongings before going out to the nearby department, Macy to buy a decent-looking jacket to keep him warmth and see him through the business world in New York City which he was adamant. Tim did have a jacket for winter but it was too informal for such an important assignment. At least, getting a business jacket would provide him the much-needed armour to brave through the warfare of business, he reasoned.

When he returned to the hotel, he was ill-prepared for what was to come. While he earnt enough to qualify for a credit card, his little pay did not qualify him for a big credit line. He did not know that the hotel would hold a certain sum of his credit limit and would only release it upon checking-out. It was it, he had got a credit card which he could not use. He had no friends to turn to in this big city. Perhaps, a consolation would be that he did bring around cash - a meagre US $1,400 to see him through 2 months in one of the most expensive in the world!

Tim was used to hard life. A orphan at a young and creative age of 16, he would carefully apportion how he would spend S$300 each month on food and transport. Fortunately for him, he did not need to worry about accomodation as his parents' insurance covered the 3-room flat that they bought. This time round, he had the added experience of penny-pinching and stretching his money.

Breakfast was taken at the hotel's premise. A good intercontinential spread of roti was better than what he used to have. After a hearty breakfast with free-flow of coffee, Tim was energised and ready to head for work. Lunch was again in the hotel but in the room where Tim would pour hot water into his cup noodle. So much for his calories intake. Tim got his protein-fix in the evening where he would spend 40 minutes walking to-and-fro to Chinatown where he would take-away Chinese fried rice with egg and stock-up on his cup noodles.

Living frugally in New York City also shed new light for Tim who felt more like a native than a foreigner. The 40 minutes walking each evening, not only helped Tim to save some transportation cost, but also enriched him with the New York City experience. He knew every nook and corner in the city.

During the two months stay, Tim had also managed to spare some money to explore Vermont, hold a fat orange pumpkin in his arms, visit the Ben and Jerry ice-cream factory, and even bought souvenirs for his wife and their new-born.

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